On a recent Saturday, I was standing in the rain watching my third consecutive hour of youth soccer. My six-year-old daughter’s team was playing. She has wild curly hair that only gets curlier in the rain. This is a good thing, because her field was two fields away from the fence where I was watching from. The bouncing curls make it much easier to spot her from a distance.
She is a good little player. She plays free from hesitation and scores goals. She is a joy to watch.
Normally, I like to yell out encouragement to the kids while they are playing. On this day, I was further away from the field (and soaking wet), so I hesitated. There were many other parents standing nearby and I did not want to draw attention to myself.
After processing this thought, I realized that it was a silly reason to withhold encouragement from my daughter. At the next opportunity, I yelled as loud as I needed to make sure she heard me.
Sometimes I underestimate the impact that my voice can have on my children. At soccer, its effect is obvious. My kids are all young, and when I shout something encouraging or supportive to them, sometimes I get a quick look back or a thumbs up, but I also notice a little boost in their play.
Even when the fields are busy with people and noise, a dad’s voice can cut through the chaos.
Duck and Cover
Earlier this spring, I heard a story about Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame). The details are a bit fuzzy, but it goes something like this:
Mike is recounting an instance from his childhood in which he is attending a family picnic. There are many people around, and Mike is standing talking to his friend. Through all the chatter, music, and activity going on around him, someone yells “Duck!” Mike instantly ducks down, and a football goes flying past where his head would have been – and hits his friend in the face.
Why did Mike hear the call and duck while his friend did not? The voice calling out was his dad’s.
As children we learn the sound of our parents’ voice. We can pick it out from the noises around us. It connects us as parents and children. This is beneficial in crowded places, acting as a guide when needed.
A parent’s voice is so much more than a voice in a crowd. It is a source of reassurance, encouragement, and validation. It is also the voice of guidance and correction when needed.
I have experienced this as a dad many times. When my daughter was younger and we were out for a bike ride, she was not paying attention and almost crashed into a parked truck. Seeing what was about to happen, I yelled to her, and she lifted her head to avoid running straight into it.
Sometimes my children feel unsure about doing something difficult that they have never done before. A word to tell them they have what it takes, that they will be safe in my care, and that by doing hard things we grow and get better, is what is needed to help them move forward.
Simply by speaking, we can bring life.
The Voice of the Father
Listening for and hearing the voice of God the Father in my own life has helped me through difficult situations and encouraged me when I have needed it. In my experience, His voice is not one that yells across the field or at a barbeque. It is much more subtle and audible only in the quiet of the heart.
It is hard to hear it amidst the noise of day-to-day life, which is why it is important to dedicate time to seek it out – to ask questions and give space to listen. To seek connection. We see this modelled by Jesus in the Gospels. He constantly turns back to the Father to listen for His voice and guidance.
Sometimes He speaks through others – other people or experiences. I was out for a bike ride recently. Taking the direct route home, I passed a park near the water. I had picked the most efficient route (away from the park), but I felt a nudge to take the long way. A voice telling me not to worry about the extra time.
As it was late in the afternoon, the sun was just starting to set behind the mountains. The water and sky were lit up with blues and purples that I had never seen. The experience was breathtaking and a drink of water for my soul.
This moment was a gift. A reassurance of His presence in my life – that He knows me.
In these moments, I feel Him saying that He has me covered and that I should trust Him to lead me.
When I am lacking in wisdom as a father, I know I can turn to Him. I trust that in each situation, each time I lean into relationship with Him, He will come through for me.
My kids are still young. It is fun to see them react when I cheer at their soccer games. Most of the conversations we have now, even the difficult ones, are mild compared to what will come as they get older.
When I look at the culture my children are growing up in compared to the one I grew up in, a lot has changed. There are questions they will have for me that I may not have the answer to. Conversations that I may not want to have.
One truth that I have already realized is that if I shy away from the hard questions or refuse to step into their mess, someone else will. And if the choice is between me having a critical conversation with my children or letting someone else have it, you better believe I am going to step up.
Being an engaged dad is work. It can be frustrating and exhausting at times, but past the challenges is a joy that comes from being connected with my children.
Being a father means engaging in a lifelong conversation with my kids. It means being ready for the difficult moments and riding them out. Refusing to quit on a conversation and getting back up and going again when I fall short.
Our common Father engages us in the same way. He is always there for us. When I look back in my life and see all the work He has done, I trust Him to guide me in the unknown places I will be asked to help my children navigate.
Our children have been entrusted to us. To best help them, we must speak.
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